Featured Stories, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

The reflected symmetry of stained glass

Kaleidoscope and the future of some Minneapolis kids

As a turn of a child’s kaleidoscope changes what appears to the viewer, some turns of events have changed the picture for the future of Kaleidoscope Place, a nonprofit in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Corporations and other organizations have recently shifted more of their financial support to programs that prepare young people for college through improving test scores. That has left Kaleidoscope Place more reliant than ever on the religious community. As important as support from corporations and other organizations is, another component of support is “little, white-haired ladies with $10 bills” who have been there to support Kaleidoscope Place over the decades.

Kaleidoscope Place has been in operation more than 50 years, running low-cost after school and summer programs for children in the neighborhood. Its history is closely aligned with Messiah Lutheran Church (ELCA) where it was founded. Many volunteers and board members are from Messiah though Kaleidoscope Place is a separate entity these days.

A Kaleidoscope Place volunteer helps a couple of students with their writing assignments as part of the after-school program. Photos provided by Kaleidoscope Place

A Kaleidoscope Place volunteer helps a couple of students with their writing assignments as part of the after-school program. Photos provided by Kaleidoscope Place

Kaleidoscope Place is more reliant than ever on the religious community. 

Kaleidoscope Place and Messiah Church occupy separate spaces in the Center for Changing Lives at 2400 Park Avenue, a development of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) which also has offices there. Some of the kids in Kaleidoscope come from households that call the apartments in the Center for Changing Lives complex their home.

In adjusting to tight finances, Kaleidoscope Place currently has a “zero budget” for office supplies, meaning it relies totally on contributions of such things as copier paper, markers, pens, and the like. Mary Lundquist, a long-time board member, is currently serving as interim director of Kaleidoscope Place on a volunteer basis. Losing its director over the summer meant some scrambling, but it also saves on the salaries budget while Lundquist forges ahead in the belief that congregations and individuals will come forward so that Kaleidoscope Place can continue its work with children through eighth grade.

It also helps that people like recent Gustavus Adolphus College graduate Ben Batz serves under his commitment to Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). (See “LVC: A year of service,” below.)

The challenges usually aren’t the children

Currently, Kaleidoscope operates at its capacity of 60 kids. Starting around 2 p.m. each weekday afternoon, children (whose school hours and bus schedules vary) begin arriving at the center. According to Batz, snack time comes first and helps kids to “bring their best selves to the learning programs.” Program hours run through 6:30 p.m. weekdays. Often current students are siblings of kids who have been through the Kaleidoscope program; others come by referral.

University of Minnesota students come four days a week for the America Reads program, working with the children. Eighty percent of the kids show improvement in reading and math skills, so the program produces results. Of course, there are some opportunities for play, too. Options include the gym or outdoor playground and computers.

Relationships with entire families are important, too. So, once a semester, children in the program and parents come together for a common meal under the theme “Tuesdays Together.”

Despite all these positive things, there is still “financial stress,” as Lundquist calls it. Currently there is a $4,000 a month shortfall between expenses and incoming support. Kaleidoscope Place’s popular summer program carries a cost of $8,000 per week which counts up over the duration of the summer. While LSS is a strong supporter, Kaleidoscope Place still must pay its monthly rent for its facilities within the Center for Changing Lives. Other notable supporters are Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, United Way, University of Minnesota Arboretum, and Youthprise, the latter part of the McKnight Foundation. Minneapolis Public Schools is also a supporter since the program includes two hours of academic studies per day.

Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota have also supported the program, though their interest tends to be more in students who are college bound rather than the younger age children at Kaleidoscope Place.

Kaleidoscope Place continues to need volunteers in the center as well as interested persons to serve on its board. For more information, call Mary Lundquist at 612/871-0221 or via email at marygreg@usinternet.com.

 

LVC: A year of service

 

Staff at Kaleidoscope Place includes Ben Batz who is fulfilling a one-year commitment to Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). He is a 2012 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, where his emphasis was on community development. A native of Bloomington, Minnesota, Batz’ family attends Diamond Lake Lutheran Church (ELCA) in south Minneapolis.

Children attending Kaleidoscope Place participate in many learning and fun experiences.

Children attending Kaleidoscope Place participate in many learning and fun experiences.

LVC is a national volunteer program for people who want to explore their spirituality while working for social justice, living in intentional community with other volunteers, and practicing sustainability in all aspects of their lives, according to the group’s website. Since its founding in 1979, LVC has matched over 1,800 volunteers with social service organizations like Kaleidoscope Place. Batz and other volunteers in the LVC program receive a stipend that covers housing, food, travel, and basic personal needs.

Volunteers live in low- to middle-income, racially-diverse communities with three to six fellow volunteers. When deciding on the location of each house, local supporters and staff members consider factors including access to public transportation, proximity to work sites, and safety.

LVC’s national headquarters is at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, DC. For more information on LVC check the website: www.lutheranvolunteercorps.org.

 

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